Author: Jon Gajewski

Sad news: Janet Dean Fodor

We are very sad to share the news that Janet Dean Fodor has passed away.

Janet was a faculty member in the UConn Department of Linguistics from 1973 until 1986, when she took up a position as Distinguished Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is widely praised for her fundamental work in establishing the field of human sentence processing, and the CUNY/HSP conference. Her research contributions and her mentorship have been highly influential, thought-provoking, and long-lasting. She was also kind, supportive, thoughtful, and generous. She will be sorely missed.

More information about her life and work can be found at and

Van der Hulst | The Oxford History of Phonology

The Oxford History of Phonology co-edited by B. Elan Dresher and Harry van der Hulst has just been published in ebook form by Oxford University Press and will be published as a physical volume on March 24th.

This 900-page book provides a history of phonology with contributions of 35 authors, covering phonology in Ancient India, Japan and Korea, the Greek and Roman traditions, the role of early writing systems as evidencing phonological structure and then focussing on the start of crucial developments in the nineteens and early twentieth centry, following by theories and school in later times up to the present time.

The volume also contains the following chapters written by UConn linguists:

  • Harry van der Hulst. The (early) history of sign language phonology
  • Nancy A. Ritter. Government Phonology in historical perspective
  • Andrea Calabrese. Historical notes on constraint-and-repair approaches


New Department Head: Diane Lillo-Martin

Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor Diane Lillo-Martin will serve as the Department Head of Linguistics effective July 1. Diane is a renowned scholar, a pioneer in the study of sign languages and a fellow of the Linguistics Society of America. The department is grateful that a proven academic leader like Diane has volunteered to guide us through these times. Thank you, Diane!

David Michaels

The members of the UConn Department of Linguistics are sad to share that David Michaels, Professor Emeritus, has died.

David was a kind, generous, intelligent, and humble man. He was one of the early members of the Department, starting as an instructor in 1968 until his retirement in 1997, and served as Department Head for many years, from 1976 to 1992. David shaped the Department and nurtured it, and his influence is felt throughout it to this day. There is no doubt that we would not be what we are without the effort and support of David Michaels.

Our hearts are with Gerda Walz-Michaels and the rest of the Michaels family at this time.



David Michaels
David Michaels in 2018 at 50 Years of UConn Linguistics

Carstens to join UConn Linguistics

We are thrilled to announce that Vicki Carstens will join the faculty of the Department of Linguistics as Professor of Syntax in Fall 2020! She comes to us from Southern Illinois University where she is Professor & Chair of Linguistics.

Prof. Carstens is a renowned generative syntactician who has worked extensively on word order and agreement cross-linguistically.  She is a skilled, experienced fieldworker and an expert on African languages with a focus on Bantu.

Check out her research here.

And find out more about her from her 2016 Featured Linguist profile on Linguist List.

Alumni Research Awards

We are pleased to announce the recipients of our first annual Alumni Research Awards.  Through this program the department awards up to $1000 annually to graduate students to support research projects.  These awards were made possible through the generous donations of alumni from our Ph.D. program.  This year’s awards go to:

Sarah Asinari & Si Kai Lee, “Verbal Agreement Patterns in Qaraqalpaq”

Shengyun Gu, “Weak hand spread in the prosody of Shanghai Sign Language”

Sad news: Samuel David Epstein

We are very sad to relate the news that Sam Epstein died on November 29, 2019 at his home.  Epstein was the Marilyn J. Shatz Collegiate Professor of Linguistics and Cognitive Science at the University of Michigan. He obtained his Ph.D. from the Department of Linguistics at the University of Connecticut in 1987, writing a thesis titled, “Empty Categories and Their Antecedents.”  Epstein went on to become one of the most influential figures in modern syntactic theory. He produced a number of ground-breaking works which are considered to be classics of the field. This for example holds for his 1999 paper “Un-principled Syntax: The Derivation of Syntactic Relations”. C-command has always been considered to be one of the most fundamental syntactic relations. Until that paper, no one really knew why, which left the whole field in a rather uncomfortable position: there was an ever present relation that fundamentally affected almost all syntactic phenomena and we did not understand why that was the case. In the paper in question, Epstein proposed an amazingly elegant and simple deduction of c-command which also explained why c-command is so pervasive. It was, and still is, an example of syntactic theorizing at its best. That paper and Epstein’s work more generally (e.g., books A Derivational Approach to Syntactic Relations and Derivations in Minimalism) led to a fundamental change in the syntactic theory, with derivationality and derivational mechanisms being emphasized over representational mechanisms. The field simply would not have been the same without Epstein.